Emily Nixon and her family bought their house in Penzance, Cornwall in 2000. They hadn’t really been looking for a new home but had seen this dilapidated old house in the local paper and although it was in need of huge amounts of work (it was in four flats and very unloved) - it was a time capsule, full of the most unbelievable period features and screaming out to be turned back into a family home.
The house was built around 1835, probably for a sea captain or successful merchant. Unlike the other houses in the terrace, this one was highly Victorianised by whoever lived here later in the century, and a lot of money must have been lavished on it at that time because of the fabulous mosaics, terrazzo flooring, plaster friezes and other delights that were added; pewter finger plates and door knobs elaborately decorated with flowers and sea creatures, a copper fireplace lavishly depicting daffodils. All unloved, untouched and waiting to be appreciated.
Emily was attracted to the house for so many reasons: the space, the light streaming through the huge bay windows at the front, the character and charm and the two rather gorgeous buildings in the garden referred to (somewhat grandly!) as the coach house and stabling, which she knew would make the perfect studio for her! Also the house had a infamous history, with many well known local characters having lived here over the years. Perhaps the most well known being Betty Paynter, who rather sadly ended up here having spent her fortune on drink and unsuitable men. The house witnessed her estranged husband shooting her lover on the staircase – the damaged plasterwork a scar of the event!
Emily converted the coach house into her studio about four years ago, but has really only finished it in the last six months. She says "I am so lucky, it is a beautiful and inspiring space overlooking the courtyard garden – it means I can keep half an eye on the activities of the household and on our energetic children (George 11, Oliver 9 and Dulcie 5). It has a mezzanine for all the office bits and lots of space for being creative downstairs, as long as I can keep it free from bikes and lawnmowers!"
In the basement of the house is the most beautiful flat, which was converted from the original kitchens of the main house; it has amazing terrazzo floors ( Emily has no idea why anyone would have been so lavish on the servants quarters!) and bags of character. The family rent it out for holidays (Cornwall Online - Penzance section -The Kitchens).
Emily and her family love living in Cornwall; "Penzance is a great town with a really strong sense of community and lots of creative people. I am really near the beach – we can see the sea out of the windows and I adore this house; it is a real rambling family home, always filled with people and laughter, noise (piano, drums, very loud Jack Russell!). The kettle is always on, a bottle of wine usually open! Then there is always the chance for a moment of peace in the studio!"
Emily's own art collection includes a beautiful, restrained Trevor Bell painting that hangs in the sitting room that she adores, a swap for the design of a catalogue by Emily's husband Martin. The family also have five pairs of feet hanging in the hall, mosaics made by Cleo Mussi, taken from templates from all the family. They are a real reminder of time passing; the children's feet look so tiny! All over the house there are strange collections of objects and memorabilia, photographs and strange car boot sale finds that are all very special.
Emily will be selling her jewellery at Made 08 in November.
All photographs courtesy of Mainstream Images.
Friday, 11 July 2008
Posted by Anne-Marie at 09:56